If Ville Pokka became a great player and a thorn in the side of opposing fans, imagine what an villain-appropriate name it would be? (Sorry, I can't think of the player without first enjoying the combo of his menacing first name and harmless-dance sounding family name.)
During the Islanders All Your Defenseman Are Belong To Us 2012 draft, several "Well he could be interesting if"s emerged. Pokka, as the second selected (34th overall), was certainly the second best at the time. But what's promising is his performance since then against multiple levels of competition has only reinforced the nice things (puck movement, vision, good reads) said about him at the time.
I'll let the rest of the panel get into why. The answer to "Is Pokka signed yet?" is a resounding "yes" as of late May, so we'll see where this goes next. Here is how we ranked him in the latest (May 2014) Islanders Top 25 Under 25.
|CIL||Keith||Mike B.||Mark||Mike L.||Chris||Dom|
Second of three top tier D prospects (Reinhart, Pulock) in the Isles' system. While I'm not as bullish on the "plays against men" ideology as others, there's no denying Pokka's numbers with his European club Karpat (6 goals, 27 points in 54 games and a +32) are impressive for a kid who just turned 20 on June 3. He's a PP QB, an excellent passer and set up man, but lacks that hard shot from the point that Pulock possesses.
Pokka however, like Reinhart, is very smart defensively for his age. This probably gets Pokka (and Reinhart) to the NHL prior to Pulock. I was very impressed with Pokka at the WJC and how his team depended on him, particularly the PP. He projects as a very good two-way D-man, though not elite offensively, Will put up his points while giving above average defense and specialize on the PP, maybe even the PK. This is a very good prospect.
In limited viewing Pokka looked smooth and poised on the Finn blue line. Finished the season at only age 19, so there's time to evaluate, but he already looks to have exceeded his draft slot.
I am completely on board this bandwagon. I think he's the Kenny Morrow of this generation - he knows what to do, will keep things calm, and he'll send the puck back out on a teammate's tape. A lot of Isles goals recently have featured unnatural amounts of sliding defensemen and blown assignments; Pokka is going to help with that.
Snow Sings Pokka. (Sorry. Had to.)
He impressed me more than Griffin Reinhart in both WJC's, so why rank him lower? There's always that question of Europeans not translating to North American hockey, so I'm being safe.
I don't worry about Pokka. He won't be the highest scoring of the Isles defensive prospects. He won't be the biggest hitting of the Isles defensive prospects. But I think there's a good chance he could end up being the best of the bunch overall.
Don't knock the Pokka until you've tried it, okay?